Small steps, Jason is what a former mentor and CEO once said to me when I was feeling frustrated from a series of failed test trials at work. I never forgot that even though the words are so simple, it resonated deeply in me coming from someone who leaned on me for the success of the project and had complete faith in my efforts. Every now and again those words pop up in my head especially when I reflect on how far I've come as a man over these last 5 years (and change). Not only am I talking about my mental health, but as a dad, friend and much more. I struggled before with managing my anger. I was the guy who cursed in traffic, worried anxiously over little things beyond my control such as the weather and other people's decisions, and was fragile when it came to my self-esteem.
Inspiration strikes sometimes when we least expect it. It can come from any direction and could be a chain reaction of events that sparked the ideas. As I rose up from my bed, I picked up my journal and began scribbling down ideas on what I want to do next to promote mental health awareness.
When I made the promise of being the best dad, I took it seriously and still do! Naturally, I stumbled along the way from time to time, being a dad who was impatient, selfish and angry, mirroring many similarities to my own father. However, I always managed to self-reflect after I faltered, hoping I wouldn't repeat the same mistakes by trying to identify any recurring patterns. By self reflection, I mean working with counsellors, meditating, journaling, and doing the work.
What happens when you feel stuck? I used to have every excuse in the book for my unhappiness. It was always someone else's fault, or how shitty my upbringing was. I wasn't loved enough, or no one gave me what I needed. My negative attitude led me to a path of depression, anxiety and anger, never able to sustain a healthy relationship with anyone because I would constantly look externally for validation. So that's how I lived my life for decades. I was holding everyone else accountable for my misfortunes, when the answers all came from within.
I've been feeling a little depressed these days and thought I'd utilize some tools I've learned over the years to address it. I realized we can all get affected mentally by changes that happen in our lives. No one is immune to feeling depressed, lonely, anxious or upset, and it's important to recognize even the slightest of these feelings, and address them accordingly.
Remember when we used to describe a person who was quiet and didn't show much emotion as the strong, silent type? I don't often hear that phrase anymore to describe a someone, and I'm glad. I mean, how strong is a person who is silent, especially when it comes to their mental health? Isn't that an oxymoron? For generations, it was seen as a positive trait, to be the strong, silent type. You're cool, collected and can withstand internalized pain. Movies stars portrayed this imagery very well, often looking cool and sexy in the movies if they were stoic.
Basketball has given my son an outlet for his depression and anxiety. It's given him a focal point to practice something he truly enjoys and provides him with entertainment that pulls him away from his negative thought patterns. I'll always love the sport because of what it has given my son.
Throughout all my years of learning about improving my mental health and acknowledging my own personal growth, I sometimes think about how things in my life has happened for a reason. I love to self-reflect because it's a reminder of how far I've come since my days of kicking the dirt on the ground feeling defeated. Things happen for a reason. There's a cause and an effect, and if we choose to see an opportunity, greater things will come to surface given some time and patience.
If anyone is struggling in their relationships, family or work life, assess your history growing up and ask yourself how the environment may have shaped your present belief system. Did you grow up with a lot family violence, arguments and shaming? Were you violated as a child and put down often? Were there major transitions such as divorce of your parents, moving to a different region or the sudden loss of a loved one? Dig deep and learn more about how childhood events such as trauma and abuse impacted you.